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The background  |  Getting the right perspective  |  Syllabus content  |  Foodforum A level case studies  |  Making links with industry  | 

A Level food technology

The background
Food is a major employer in the UK - a highly competitive and challenging industry offering a wealth of employment opportunities. The introduction of new Advanced Level courses (September 2000) provides a valuable pathway to further and higher education for those who wish to study the subject at this level.

There were already food-related courses available at Advanced Level, Home Economics in particular, but these are substantially different from Food Technology. Whilst Home Economics courses predominantly take a home and family perspective, Food Technology reflects the practical applications of materials, processes and technologies in relation to food and addresses not just the consumer perspective, but also the industrial and technological. Home Economics A Levels will continue to be offered by some Awarding Bodies, but the extent of their shelf-life is yet to be determined.

A Level syllabuses are offered by the following awarding bodies and information can be found on their respective web sites:

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Getting the right perspective
It is in the area of content, or rather the way in which it is organised and presented, that the specifications (previously syllabuses) differ most markedly from one another. There is much about the specifications that is recognisable as being similar to the content of any advanced food course. However, the perspective now taken reflects the fact that to understand food in a technological society is to understand it in the broadest possible context, including its technological applications.

AS/A Level courses in Food Technology provide opportunities for students to:

  • develop and sustain their own innovation, creativity and practical D&T capability
  • develop a critical awareness about food product design and manufacture, including industrial and commercial practices
  • apply knowledge, understanding and skills about food, design and production processes - making practical use of what they know, understand and can do
  • use Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in a range of ways, egs. use of information systems - databases; spreadsheets; modelling (costing, nutritional analysis, scaling up and down); use of graphics packages; data logging, measurement and control; nutritional analysis; manufacturing on-line; CAD and CAM
  • take account of the social, moral, spiritual and cultural values that underpin design and technological activity when they are evaluating products and their applications, and when making their own design decisions
  • develop as discerning consumers, able to make informed choices
  • foster positive attitudes of co-operation and citizenship in preparation for adult life
  • develop and use transferable key skills - communication skills, numeracy, ICT, management of their own learning, collaborative working, problem-solving, critical and analytical thinking, flexibility and adaptability
  • develop and demonstrate management skills, egs. in projects and tasks, setting targets, reviewing and monitoring progress, time and resource management, planning and organisation
  • The Advnced Level courses aim to develop appropriate skills in these areas, including a wide range of practical skills in handling and working with food, applying design thinking and manufacturing processes.

    Throughout the courses a number of perspectives are developed and students should learn from, and about, each of them:

    Industry perspective - The food industry is an integral part of the modern world, whose function is to develop and manufacture food products to meet needs and wants in a rapidly changing society. Students will be taught about key aspects of the industry, egs. the nature of foodstuffs, process engineering of food products, safety and hygiene, consumer needs and wants.

    Consumer perspective - Consumers of food products may have interests that do not always coincide with those of the food industry. Students will be taught about consumer concerns, egs. cost, safety, food legislation, environmental issues and the relationship between consumers and the food industry.

    Understanding technology and society - D&T can contribute to education for citizenship by raising awareness and understanding of the technological issues which face citizens in our modern world. Students will be taught about the role the food industry plays in modern society, including international and global issues. They will consider the future of the food industry, eg. the increasing use of biotechnology.

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    Specifiaction content
    QCA provided awarding bodies with a set of criteria from which A level courses have been developed. The areas of study include:

  • food science, chemistry and nutrition
  • food processing, production and manufacturing
  • nutritional and sensory effects on food through processing
  • nutrition claims and labelling
  • HACCP - risk assessment and management
  • energy efficiency
  • consideration of socio-economic, cultural and ethical factors
  • food law and its enforcement
  • resource management
  • microbiology
  • food process engineering
  • use of systems, diagrams and schematic layouts
  • A Level syllabuses organised into modules - three for AS and a further three for A2, the focus being:

  • materials
  • product design and development
  • manufacturing, systems and control
  • Units of work at A2 extend the work of the AS units in more depth and at a greater level of application. This is the case for all Awarding Bodies, although they express it differently according to the way in which they have organised syllabus content.

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    FoodForum A Level case studies
    These case studies were developed in collaboration with the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), and made possible with the support of several of their member companies (Marks & Spencer, Northern Foods and Unilever). They provide a resource that teachers can use to address the demands and rigour of A Level study.

    Each case study provides information and materials that may be used to support students through a broad variety of learning experiences, egs:

  • investigative and experimental work
  • individual and group activities
  • problem-solving tasks
  • analysis and evaluation of existing products and systems
  • development of systems thinking and application of control concepts
  • opportunities to develop and communicate ideas for food products
  • opportunities to develop, prototype and realise ideas in practice
  • taught inputs/demonstrations, egs. to teach designing and making techniques
  • discussion of technological issues and value judgements, egs. values relating to aesthetics, sensory attributes, materials, nutrition, user preferences and choices, marketing strategies
  • Please note: information presented in these case studies was correct at the time of posting and does not necessarily reflect current manufacturing processes used.
    Syllabus area Related case study materials
    Designing with nutrition in mind Be Good to Yourself
    Focus on nutrition: fats 96% Fat Free carrot cake
    Product Design & Development
    NPD at Sainsbury's Being a Food Product Developer 1
    NPD at Riverside Evesham Foods Being a Food Product Developer 2
    CAD/CAM Cheesecake manufacture
    Food Process Engineering Yeo Valley Organic Yogurts
    HACCP in burger production Focus on HACCP
    Unit Operations & CAD/CAM Wright's Bread Mixes
    Unit Operations & CAD/CAM Riverside Evesham Foods

    You can use the search facility on this site to find other case studies in the F-files that may be used at A level by going to the user notes. Guidance on getting the most out of case studies for teaching and learning, is also provided there.

    Additional resources

    CAD and CAM at A level
    Many of the principles and practices re ICT, CAD and CAM at A level are similar to those at GCSE and can be supported by many of the same resources. Click here to go to relevant guidance notes.

    Making links with industry
    Industry is an excellent resource for dipping into, highlighting real life examples from which students can learn and improve their own designing and making practice. This involves learning about how materials may be used, ie. how things get to be the way they are, how and why they were developed (designing) and manufactured (making). The purpose of this requirement is not to learn about industry for its own sake, but to learn from studying the examples it provides and about the ways in which things may be done.

    Developing an understanding of industrial practices across a range of scales of production results in learning about materials - their properties, characteristics, behaviour when processed, and the ways in which they can be used to meet different purposes, needs and requirements. The industrial practices aspects are not separate or additional, but an integral part of learning about food from a realistic, technological perspective.

    It is useful to consider what those with industrial and commercial expertise may be able to offer schools and to match this to curriculum requirements and opportunities. Involving industrial experts can enable students to:

  • visit a real work environment
  • tap into a source of information and expertise
  • gain first hand experience of full-scale manufacturing
  • work with a greater range of materials, equipment and resources than schools can provide
  • engage with a real life situation or challenge
  • make links with aspects of their life outside school

    Industrial links may be made using ICT as an alternative or complement to first-hand experience, egs. conferencing, emailing, virtual tours - the priority being to bring the subject to life for students and provide them with access to the world beyond school.

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